The most memorable description I’ve read of the Trump era’s time-warp effect and destabilizing impact was written in late 2016—before his presidency. The president-elect was doing a victory lap. The news media was looking inward, or trying to, for lessons learned. Fusion’s editor-in-chief was the brilliant Alexis Madrigal, now an Atlantic staff writer and co-founder of the COVID Tracking Project, who found just the words to close out the year: “Each hour and each tweet and each celebrity sighting at Trump Tower can blot out the millions of other stories simultaneously in motion, backwards and forwards in time. How can anyone make a proper critique” of “the ‘moment,’ our name for any number of myths…if its basis—even the set of facts that occasioned it—has been forgotten in an instant? It’s like we’re living inside the memory hole, shards and pieces of what used to be structured into history floating around us like confetti.”
My porous memory can’t shake that idea, the swirl of news and noise and the distinction between them; the durability of facts; the shards and structures of memory itself. What we remember and don’t. What we choose to forget but can’t. Whether it’s Mother Jones giving shape to the pandemic or Alexis chronicling its path, I’m brought back to those year-end words: “Maybe the hero of 2016 is every other year that has come before it, and their contents. Stay anchored. Do the work.”
Thanksgiving will float by like a shard, and workers will stay anchored, seen or unseen. You don’t need sentimentalism to hear it, and don’t need to be in a sentimental mood to hear “In a Sentimental Mood,” recorded on this day 13 years ago by Sonny Rollins, now 90. Ellington’s original is here. Rollins’ is here. Madrigal is here. Recharge is at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy almost Thanksgiving.